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Personal Safety in the Caribbean

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Q: Captain:

My yacht is based in the Caribbean this season, and I’m a bit concerned about crime against crew, especially as there have been some nasty attacks involving crew lately. I plan to give a talk to the crew when we arrive in Saint Martin. Do you have any tips for things I should say to help them stay safe?

A: The Crew Coach

Yacht crew are unfortunately often targets to criminals as they are known to have money and they often make themselves vulnerable by drinking too much when they are out. While not wishing to overestimate the dangers in the Caribbean, armed holdups, beatings, rapes and even murders have been known to happen to crew in these areas and it would be awful for your crew to be at risk. You are definitely doing the right thing by preparing your crew with a talk.

Here are some important tips on how your crew can take simple, tangible and realistic steps to stay safe in the Caribbean and anywhere else in the world.

Crew must walk in groups at night. This cannot be emphasised enough.

Never, ever leave a crew member out in a bar on their own.

Don’t put someone in a taxi on their own, unless it is with a known safe driver.

Find a reliable taxi service number through the port staff, make sure everyone has it in their wallet and programmed in their phone along with emergency numbers.

Ensure that all crew have mobile phones that work in the area and have credit. Give a responsible crew member a spare boat mobile or VHF to take on a crew night out for emergency calls.

Have a name board on the boat for crew to check in and out. If you come home late, check the board to see who’s not in yet and give them a quick call or message to check they’re ok.

Try to avoid visiting the cashpoint; crew have been assaulted while withdrawing money or shortly afterwards. Keep alert at cashpoints and check for machine tampering. Inquire with port authorities if they know of any problem machines.

Have enough cash in your wallet for a taxi back to the boat and never touch this money for any other reason. Apart  from this cash, pay with a card wherever possible. Only take one card out.

If you are withdrawing substantial amounts of cash, keep it hidden and if possible do this during daylight hours with other crew for protection. You could even have a dummy wallet with a smaller amount of cash to give away if you are faced with muggers.

Do NOT try to fight an attempted mugging, even if you think the odds are good - you don’t know who is lurking in the shadows as backup, and your reaction times will be slower if you’ve been drinking. Hand possessions over without an argument.

Smartphones are a beacon for thieves, it is a much better idea to carry cheap local phones.

Don’t walk along texting, it makes the phone more obvious and you less alert.

Don’t talk about yacht itineraries or boat names where others can hear you, you are putting your yacht and entire crew at risk.

Be ALERT. You are statistically extremely less likely to be robbed or hurt if you keep an eye on your surroundings. Thieves treat crime like a business; they take calculated risks and will only pursue the weakest (often drunkest) targets. If you see the same person at numerous bars throughout the night who seems to be watching your group, make calm eye contact, they now know they could be identified and will hopefully move away to find a softer target.

Have all your cards and ID photocopied and leave documents in your cabin or boat safe. It’s a good idea to scan them too and email them to yourself so you can access these copies wherever you are.

Never take your passport out with you. In places like the US where ID is necessary, make sure your crew have alternative ID than passports.

Don’t wear expensive watches and flashy jewellery; they make you a shining target.

Keep an eye on crew who are behaving unusually, as they may have been drugged. Don’t let strangers buy drinks, this is the most common way for people to be drugged.

Besides the illegality of it, buying drugs hugely elevates the risk of mugging: the dealers then know your face, know you have money and where you keep it, and know you will be drug-affected when you come out of the bar or club.

Being extremely drunk is simply asking for trouble. Keep your wits about you - and if you’re the most sober crewmember, it’s your obligation to look after the others.

The vast majority of yacht crew will have a safe and happy Caribbean season, but the consequences of not being prepared can be horrific and mar the lives and good memories of your crew. Stay alert and safe this winter.

Do you know of any other safety precautions that your crew use?

See other related articles below:

Allmode Security Report Caribbean

Crew Safety Ashore - Time to Act

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